Roku will begin pushing out a snazzy new UI for Netflix Watch Instantly users tomorrow. I've been playing around with it today and can enthusiastically say it's a huge step forward over the prior UI. First and foremost the new UI allows on-screen search, browse and Watch Instantly queuing - features that eliminate the process of teeing something up on your computer and then flipping over to your TV to watch. These have been available on the game consoles for some time and are an important step forward for Roku.
Roku owners will be able to use their remote controls to scroll through cover art and select what they want to watch. The cover art is arranged in nearly identical categories to those displayed in Netflix's own Watch Instantly online UI (e.g. new arrivals, comedy, kids, etc.). It's impressive how fast the Roku app interacts with Netflix online. I added and deleted movies in each and toggled back and forth to see if the other was updated. In all cases the queue was immediately current.
In addition to browsing, you can also use a TiVo-style alpha-numeric keypad to easily punch in the title of what they're looking for with the Roku remote. I especially liked how results start showing up after entering just 1 or 2 letters, so you can quickly select and view.
Roku and other special purpose convergence devices need to continue to innovate in order to stay out in front of the recently-announced Google TV, which I think could be a big winner. I continue to maintain there's huge pent-up consumer interest in accessing online video on TV, and I see nothing on the horizon that will slow it down.
Netflix is the signature brand helping drive a lot of the convergence activity. If you're interested in learning more about Netflix's streaming plans, and the broader topic of how Hollywood succeeds in the digital distribution era, make sure to join us for the VideoSchmooze breakfast at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills coming up on Tuesday, June 15th.Early bird discounted registration is open now!
Btw - Netflix just pinged me that it has just posted an overview of its business opportunity. There's a lot of great detail on how it views the competitive landscape. Check it out here.
VideoNuze is the authoritative online source for original analysis and news aggregation focused on the burgeoning online video industry. Founded in 2007 by Will Richmond, a 20-year veteran of the broadband, cable TV, content and technology industries, VideoNuze is read by executive-level decision-makers who need to get beyond the standard headlines and achieve a deep understanding of online video’s disruptive impact.